In a recent House of Commons debate on amendments to the Road Safety Bill, Eric Martlew MP said Halfords wanted to see the introduction of cycle helmet compulsion for children.
Last year, Martlew launched a private members’ bill calling for such compulsion. The Labour MP was the frontman for the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, a political lobbying organisation funded, in large part, by the Freemasons.
His bill was defeated on a technicality. Since then he has used every opportunity to breathe new life into his "child protection" project.
He mentioned Halfords (…and the BMA…) in a debate on 8th March.
"Even though [helmet compulsion] could affect its business, [Halfords believes] it would be unethical not to support the Bill," said Martlew.
Barbara Cadd, head of corporate and brand management at Halfords, told BikeBiz.com that the decision to support helmet compulsion for children was made at board level a month ago.
Martlew’s bill drew the line at 16 year olds. Cadd said Halfords only supported compulsion for much younger children.
"Helmets are not seen as cool by older children, you can’t force them to wear helmets," she said.
She likened the wearing of cycle helmets for young children to the proper fitting of child seats in cars.
When BikeBiz.com asked whether Halfords would support helmet wearing for children in cars – a measure that would save more lives than forcing cyclists to wear helmets – she said the use of child seats would make this unnecessary.
What about for older children?
"Hadn’t thought about that," she said.
"It’s a moot argument. I can see the logic."
BikeBiz.com asked Cadd if she knew about the Football Association campaign that said nine children had died "in recent years" from head injuries incurred in football matches?
Did she know there’s now a movement in the US, and elsewhere, to make young soccer players wear helmets?
"Hmm, I can see things moving in that direction here," said Cadd.
"Of course, we shouldn’t be over-protective. But if we want to see more children cycling to school on roads, we need to reassure parents that cycling is safe."
The Bike It scheme has a standard exercise to find out what prevents children from cycling to school. Pupils are given small coloured stickers and are asked to dot them on to sheets of A4 with titles such as ‘bad weather’, ‘dangerous roads’ and ‘wearing helmets’. The standard response is for the ‘wearing helmets’ sheet to be covered in small stickers.
That the wearing of helmets for those who don’t want to wear them is a massive disincentive to cycling was recognised by Martlew in the 8th March debate.
He said: "Youngsters are saying, "Look at mushroom-head over there". They do not think that it is cool to wear a helmet, even though some of them are extremely well designed. They are pressured into thinking that if they wear one they are a coward."
Martlew believes modern youth is law-abiding to a degree hitherto unknown: "[Children] would like legislation to be passed, because then they could say, "I have to wear a helmet, because it is the law."